sermon: Preventing the Warfare State
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 21-Sep-17; Sermon #1398B; 80 minutes
Although God has sanctified us, we share the same spiritual roots as every other human being, namely, carnal nature, which Scripture defines to be at enmity with His law, walking according to the sway of the world and the prince of the power of the air. Satan has taught mankind well the art and craft of war between nations, within families, in politics, in sports—everywhere. The descendants of Jacob have brought military dominance—a warfare culture—to a whole new level in the modern world. As God's called-out ones, we must resist being dragged into partisan battles, the spirit of which encourages us to hate other individuals to the extent of wanting their destruction. The dynamics of the two-party system is rooted in conflict, with a never -ending pattern of divisive hatred toward "the other side." Chaos has become the order of the day. Christ admonishes His children against taking sides in political battles, as involvement in sectarian conflicts draws our attention away from our primary objective—overcoming and being sanctified for service in God's Kingdom. Current events are not happening randomly, but with deliberate planning on the part of Satan. Though we might sympathize with the expressed goals of certain political factions, we should not align ourselves with worldly causes, as they find their roots in Satanic belligerence. The instructions God gave to the kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (that is, the prohibition of appointing non-Israelites to the office and the injunctions against the king's accumulation of wives, horses and wealth) are practical guidelines to protect Israel (past and present) from returning to Egypt-a type of slavery and sin. Had Israel obeyed God, she would never have needed to develop a military-industrial complex because God promised to care for His covenant-keeping people.
We are going to open now with a verse from Ephesians that we should all be familiar with.
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath just as the others [meaning the others who are not converted because they have not been called by God, and have not received the grace that He freely gave to us when He called us.].
I begin this sermon with these verses to serve as a reminder that, though we are sanctified now, we share the same spiritual roots as the rest of mankind. The remnant of those roots can arise and dominate our thinking if given the opportunity. That nature is very much in the image of him who made war against God. Did you realize that until God called you, you were at war with God? You were.
I find it intriguing that the Feast of Trumpets is located at the mid-point of the annual observances of the festivals. It also appears, that is the day of Christ’s return, to take over rulership of the nations of this world. In addition to that, it is also the day of the resurrection of the righteous saints. It can thus appear that much of God’s fabulous purpose for mankind, as shown by all the festivals collectively, commentates on and pivots around this particular festival.
It can also appear as though God arranged the festivals as He did to draw a particular extra measure of focused attention to the Feast of Trumpets. It is almost as an exclamation point that completes what preceded it, and at the same time, pinpoints a new beginning for all that follows—one thing ends, another begins.
There is yet another aspect, a practical one. It is that day that focuses on Christ’s return, and the warfare that follows. Preparing for war and actually going to war is an occupation that mankind’s history has shown, man seems to be really, truly adept at doing. Once one knows a bit of the history of the relationship of God and mankind, we then have proof that mankind has had a good teacher, a teacher who persuaded us to live so as to not have a good relationship with God. The way to do this is to just go to war against Him.
The war relationship with mankind and God began when Satan made war against God. God’s revelation in the Bible begins with God cleaning up the mess from that war to prepare earth as the environment for mankind to live, work, and go to war in. The Bible then proceeds to become a continuous record of God’s and mankind’s relationship, consisting mostly of God’s patient resistance to mankind’s persistent efforts to do anything but submit and be at peace with God’s sovereign rule.
The Bible further reveals, that even as mankind’s warfare against God is almost always underway to some degree, so also are his wars against each other, following the same pattern. It is nation against nation, it is family against family, it is marriage partners against the one they married. We make war with our small and large communities, politics has been described as war, our highly competitive business practices, athletic programs, have elements of warfare in them too, especially in one’s attitudes I some cases. Even socially within our culture neighbors may compete rather than cooperate with their fellow neighbors to in some way gain an upper hand, seeking the respect of other neighbors.
The elements of warfare permeate our culture because it infects, it permeates our very spirit. We are almost drowning in it.
This complex of anti-attitudes is our constant companion, it is always prepared to serve our wishes. We carry it with us wherever we go. As in the days before the Flood, unless it is held in check, somewhat level of violence, triggered by our competitive nature, is ever our silent servant to get our way rather than give in to someone else’s way.
We do not like to think of ourselves as being of this sort, but it is a reality that we must deal with if we are properly evaluating our capabilities. Everybody is capable of anger, everybody is capable of hatred, everybody is capable of lust, everybody is capable of going to war to get what it is that he desires. The choice to do that is ever-ready within us.
It is right here that how one evaluates himself against the righteous standard comes to the fore. Unless one has overriding reasons to direct himself, to act in the manner that will not instigate warfare, one will find himself in one which they willingly, or unwillingly, have participated in. We get drawn into it, in many cases whether we want to or not.
Even as a member, a citizen of the United States of America, you can actually do nothing to actually instigate the war, but the first thing you know you are in it, because your nation is in it. Of course you are affected by it—both in terms of physical survival and terms of the emotional quality that arises in that kind of situation—when we fear what will happen because of the war.
Warfare has become a tool for one nation to get what they desire, whether through violence or intimidation. Our current president has made it very clear that he is trying right out to intimidate North Korea, so that they do not make war. But what are we doing? We are using tactics of warfare to try to shut them down! That is the way man is. The way to avoid war is to be so strong that nobody will attack you because you are already ready for war. That is life in the world because of Satan, and because we are so in tune with him. We absorb what he is, it seems, right out of the air. That is why the Bible uses the term spirit in those three verses we began with.
Jesus was a man who trusted God. He never resorted to either violence or intimidation to achieve the results that He desired. He humbly and patiently waited for God to supply His need. Mankind does not know God, therefore, it does not trust God. He goes and get what he wants using his available resources even if he has to go to war, to some measure, in order to get it. To some people it is the first thing they turn to, to other people it might be the last thing they turn to, but eventually somehow, in some way, we all get dragged into it, because that is the nature of those guiding this world.
Did you ever stop to think that Adam and Eve went to war against God by stealing something forbidden them from His garden? They stole it, that was an act of war. Consider this: In my Readers Digest Great Encyclopedia Dictionary, the second definition of war is “any act or state of hostility.” Stealing was an act of war by that definition. That is where sin began, as an act of war against Somebody who loved them as nobody has ever loved them after that. That was the fruit of war; the love, as it were, ended. That is what happens to everybody. War puts an end to friendship, because war puts an end to love, unless whatever the acts were that started it are totally repented of.
We do not think of what Adam and Eve did as an act of war, a war of aggression, because our perception of war deceives us. We tend to think of war by associating it with bombs, rifles, battleships, tanks, cannons, shore landings on beaches, huge waves of soldiers bearing rifles in hands to kill those on the other side.
Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
It cannot have the enmity taken away by what we might call a normal means. It can be eliminated by God, but as far as life itself, as a human being is concerned, carnal nature can never be at peace with God, because making war is a part of its nature. It looks upon others as the enemy. They may do it silently, they may do it without raising a fuss, but we are getting the truth here: The very heart and core of the carnal nature is enmity against God and that puts us against others as well.
We have two elements to be concerned about here, with what Romans 8:7 says. The first, is that the carnal mind thinks of itself as being good, or perhaps at least not as bad, certainly not evil, like Satan is. Jesus said something that is very instructive. Sometimes it is saddening, but it is factual and it appears in Matthew 19.
Matthew 19:17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God, but if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Where does that leave us? Where does that lead anyone else of the billions of people who live on this earth? There is only one that is good, that is God. Jesus was speaking to a group of unconverted people, he mentions men, so we will assume there were no women there. But it does not matter because women are just like men in these terms.
Matthew 7:11 “If you then [These are just unconverted people walking on the same streets that Jesus walked. We just saw that Jesus said that there was no one good but God.], being evil [You know for sure they had the same kind of nature we do, they did not think they were evil, “I’m just as good as that guy who lives next door.” That is the way we tend to think but we have got to look at this the way God does, according to what Jesus said.], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven [There is the contrast because He is good.] give good things to those who ask Him!”
Christ directly called some unconverted Jews He was speaking to, evil. That straightens out this thing about how we think of ourselves. We are not in that position. These were unconverted people, so to them He was very plain and clear. There is only One who is good and everybody else—unconverted, having no portion of the Spirit of God—they are evil. An evil person can do something good once in a while, but the heart and core of what is driving them for long periods in their life, is the fact that they are evil. That is the one element that we have concern for.
The second element of concern is that none of our reasoning can erase the reality of what these verses plainly say. The carnal mind—which we still carry elements of (Ephesians 2:1-3)—even in our conversion, perceives God as an enemy. This gets back to the beginning when I used these verses so that we can see that there are still elements of that evil in us. It can be raised up depending upon the way we use the nature that we have.
You can see what needs to be done, that nature has to be held in check, otherwise it will rise up and make war. The reason it has to be held in check is this: it is those we think of as enemies, that we tend to most frequently make war against. It may not be violent, but it certainly will not climb to the pinnacle of being loving toward them without a great deal of boosting ourselves to get in place to do it.
Here is a summary of a truth regarding this opening. As long as carnality exists, some degree of warfare always remains a possibility.
Let us expand this and apply it first to a national reality, a reality that is occurring right now, and hopefully we will get back to a more personal application of counsel a bit later. Here in the United States of America, because we have a republican form of government, we elect people to represent us in the halls of government. These representatives are people who are supposed to carry out our wishes. However, there are at least two organized political parties, and with two there is a possibility of warfare. But, in addition, a third party may be forming. This is reality, this is happening. Right now it seems as though if there is anywhere that is actually come to fruition, it is going to be out of the Republican party. They are the ones most likely to split apart. They have done it before.
They did it just before the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Whig party split into two and they became the Republicans and also the Whigs that remained with the Whigs, and Abraham Lincoln was their first candidate ever elected to the office of President. A third may be happening right now. The formation is not very far along, but they are at least talking about it, and some elements have already begun to come together. Then there is a fourth group, who are generally associated in people’s minds with the Democratic party, but these people’s agenda is really and truly for the overthrow of the United States government. These people are the Leftists, you will hear them called that from time to time in the news.
So we have a Republican party, a Democratic party, we have a possibility of a third party, then we have the Leftists. Here is the problem. Since warfare is a very strong, powerful, influential element within the carnal nature, each group has its own representative vying in behalf of their groups wishes. That circumstance immediately establishes the potential for war in government, because the sides do not agree or there would be no sides. It is obvious there are sides. I think you can begin to see that politics is indeed a form of war. Turn with me to Psalm 2. We will read the whole thing. According to Acts 3, this psalm was written by David about David, however you can clearly see its most meaningful application is in regard to Jesus Christ and His second coming. This psalm is very timely right now.
Psalm 2:1-12 Why do the nations rage, and the people plot [notice that word] a vain [useless, damaging, destructive] thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together [that is what happens in governments], against the Lord and against His anointed, saying [David as this was originally written, and of course the real application, the end time application, is Jesus Christ. Mankind is preparing for war against God, our King, and the war is already going on. Here is what the plotters are saying, whether they actually believe that they are saying it against Jesus and His Father.], “Let us break their bonds in pieces [You know very well as we have seen what is happening in our government. God is being pushed further and further, as it were, into the background and is not a part of our thinking in terms of pleasing Him, but rather we are trying to break ever further away from God. Mankind is clearly at war against God, it is all around us.] and cast away their cords [that bind us] from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure;” [He is prepared to go to war against them. He sees exactly what there are doing.] Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” [The Father says this.]
“I will declare the decree; the Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son [this is the Son speaking back], today I begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’” Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [submit to the Son], lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
Notice the word plot in verse 1, because it sets the tone for what is going on in the world right now. Understand that the conspiracies regarding national governments are, even in Israelitish nations, always going on, and whether we realize it or not, they are always against God and His sovereign ruler ship. So persistent is the carnal nature’s desire to go to war that even when Israel had a ruler of the quality of David, there were rebellions against him. His own son rebelled against him and king David himself rebelled against God in the matter of his adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba.
Here in the United States the relationship between two major parties is now the most strained that they have ever been since the un-Civil War. Some pundits are making appeals that Mr. Trump should be impeached, or that he is already under house arrest in the White House, and very closely monitored. Others claim that a second civil war has already begun, though a little fighting in the streets has occurred. The violence that has occurred, such a recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been isolated and sporadic. Chaos is the order of the day.
So I want to make clear where the Christian must stand. That is what is important to you and me.
As I begin this section of the sermon, I want to make clear that what is happening is not now happening accidentally but is being carried out with deliberation and purpose. I am talking about what it says in Psalm 2. That is being done deliberately, it is just not happening randomly. It is being deliberately stirred, both humanly and by demons. What is happening is most certainly not our war. My emphasis is on the term our, it is being conducted in such a way to be a major distraction thus diverting our attention away from our primary responsibilities.
The purpose of the next stage, as it grows more violent, will be to isolate us. Christians must have no part in any stage, but it is definitely affecting us simply because we live here and because of our past associations and blood relationships..It is definitely impacting us on our feelings forcing toward tending to favor one group or the other. We must understand where Christ expects us to stand.
John 18:29 [This occurred during Jesus’ trial.] Pilate then went out to them [the Jews] and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” [Remember, what we are pursuing here is what Jesus, our Leader, did as our primary directive about where we must stand. Notice how this unfolds.] They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.”
It is very clear that the Jews clearly had no accusation that would stand up in a Roman court. That is why Pilate wanted clarification, “What do you have against this guy?” They did every kind of tiptoeing around because they really did not have a good accusation to bring up.
John 18:30-36 Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” [Now Jesus wanted clarification.] Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” [Now we come to a very significant statement by Jesus that helps us to understand where He wants us to stand.] Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, . . .
That clarifies a great deal. Is what is going on in all the chaos that is being created around Donald Trump and others there in Washington, DC, are they part of Christ’s Kingdom? What does that mean then? Very clearly it means to us that this is not our war, it is not at all our responsibility to defend it or to fight for it. It is not our kingdom. It is Christ’s Kingdom that we need to be concerned about. Did Christ defend Himself? Did He give Himself anything more than what He clearly confessed to Pilate? Not at all. That is where we stand. We are not for Trump, we are not for the Democrats, we are not for the Supreme Court, we are not for Congress. We might sympathize with what someone is saying or applaud some truth that someone might give that are part of those bodies, but they have nothing at all to do with us in terms of defending it or fighting aggressively in its behalf. Because Christ gave us our marching orders.
John 18:36 . . . so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
In a place where it really and truly mattered, He did tell a Roman official, openly and directly, that He was King. But He also added privately to Pilate, this has nothing to do with you, or with Caesar or with Rome at this time, because My Kingdom is not of this present system of government affairs.
John 18:37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness in the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Christ said, “He had nothing to do with Rome at this time because My kingdom is not of this present system of government affairs.” As long as we continue to hear His voice, and God also considers us to be very parts of Christ, part of His spiritual body as it were, our position has to be the same as His or you are not really with Him. Our position is to be walking in His steps. His position was to be on God’s side only. That is where we stand.
Do you not think in revealing that this nation (part of the reason I went through all of this about has America ever been a spiritual nation, a godly nation, a Christian nation is this:) which prides itself, claims, at least some aspects of it, to be founded on Christian principles, has fought about as many wars (especially before international onlookers), as any other nation making no such claim, that comes anywhere close to the claims that we make. This witness destroys America’s claim. It has not and has not ever been Christian.
My title here in this sermon is preventing the warfare state—not the welfare state. I am using the term “state” in two ways. The first is as a sense of a condition, as in one might ask, “What is the state of his health?” The second is in a sense of a governing institution as in a nation. Like many of my sermons the foundation reaches back into the Old Testament and especially into Deuteronomy, because God through Moses, laid down the law to those unconverted people. In it we find what God laid down through Moses is truth. He laid down specific laws so that there would be some guidance as to how to avoid war, and many other evils.
This section I am drawing from is part of what the apostles termed in Galatians 3:19 as the “law added because of transgressions.” The people in Moses’ day and afterward in Joshua’s and the judges’ day, did not obey them either. Thus like modern USA, they were involved in many wars.
The counsel from God in this sermon has both individual and personal application. But in Deuteronomy it is primarily focused on the national application and the personal is then drawn from that application. I am doing two things at the same time here. First, giving as it is applied to the nation under Moses, and then drawing on the spirit of what is given to the nation for the individual application as well.
You might also grasp this within the leadership and covenant sermon series, because the covenants were given partly to produce unified leadership for families and the nation, if the people would follow the leaders by obeying as well.
This counsel is given by God to greatly hinder, or better still, to entirely prohibit the development of the tyranny of a despotic fascist, communist, or elitist rule by a clique of an economically powerful intimidating person, or group that ceases control of virtually everything in the nation. You might wonder why in the world would I want to talk about something like this. It is because what we are going through, eventually, leads to that. It will not be all that long before we are under a despot.
If it is not one person, it will be a group of people who run everything, and our liberties will be gone. It is the nature of man. God gave these to keep this from happening if it would be obeyed.
This counsel is also given for leadership personally, that is within families. Because a person, a father, or a mother, male, or female, it does not matter, somebody in the family can turn into a despot, in terms of rulership within a family. It happens.
Let me put this another way so it is just as plain and clear as anything. That is, what is given to a nation is also given to an individual, and to exercise the counsel that God gives so that it does or does not happen as it should.
Deuteronomy 17:14 “When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’. . .
Most nations do not have governments that are as liberal as we have here in the Israelitish countries. They are almost all despotic, fascist, communist powerhouses. We are not there yet but we are on our way. The things that build into that kind of a governmental rule are occurring where there is so much internal division within the nation between all of the representatives that are supposed to be doing our will.
Deuteronomy 17:15 . . . you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said you,’ ‘You shall not return that way again.’ Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. Also it shall be when he sit on the throne of his kingdom that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God [Incidentally, just be reminded always, that we do not fear God naturally, it is learned through experience] and be careful to observe all the words of this law and theses statutes [and here is why], that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.”
I know that you are somewhat familiar with these laws, but I will summarize. First their overall intent. Obedience to them is intended to prevent the very things that are happening now in the United States of America. Understand, these are not intended only for the king himself. We are to live by every word of God. There are not words that are separated that only the king gets and nobody else does. What is given to the king applies to us too. When we are in a position of rulership over others we have to rule the same way God tells the king that he has to rule, and what his attitudes have to be in regard to those that he is leading. It is for father, it is for mother, in the family.
First piece of counsel is that the king must be what the U.S. Constitution calls for regarding our president, he must be a natural born citizen. This is the first piece of advice, Are you aware of how that phrase got into our constitution in the first place? The history behind it will surprise you. King George II, of Britain, the king we rebelled against at the time of our war of independence from England, before our war was being declared, King George III was not a natural born Brit. He was of the German house of Hanover and he married a German lady, Charlotte, from whom the city of Charlotte is named, and the county we are in is Mecklenburg, that is where she was from.
In addition to that, he had alliances with banking interests outside of Britain that our leaders were very suspicious of. When the British Parliament decided to tax the colonies to raise monies to eventually make war against us, the colonists appealed to King George, but his indifference to the appeals by the colonists he was sworn to defend, which angered the colonist (they did not consider him truly British), emotionally that helped instigate the war.
The colonists did not forget, and when our Constitution was put together in 1787, they did not forget that he was not a natural born Brit. So when our Constitution was formerly drawn up, the Founders went back to terms used before the battle of Hastings, Britain, in AD 1066, and used the ethnic wording kith and kin. The term king is derived from the term kin. Kith and kin literally means country and family.
That was buried in history, but they dug it out and said we are going back to that, we are not going to allow somebody to rule this country who is not really an American. Do you honestly think Mr. Obama was a natural born citizen? There are number of reasons why Mr. Obama’s lineage was suspected, but he was greatly aided by people in the position to do things to confuse and hide what clear records might have been available, so that pushed a real decision off to the side and he remained in office.
Why is this command that the king must be a natural born citizen important to leadership? Remember, this is the first of God’s law regarding this. It is important! This may seem to most as being a mere side matter, of little consequence in the days of humanistic reasoning, but that is perceiving things only carnally. I might remind you that this is the first point that God makes in regard to the governments of the nations, and there is loving reasons concerning the well being of a nation’s people. God’s counsel looks beyond what is merely on the surface. There is a quality hidden from the surface of God’s counsel that is learned from the wisdom of experience that God certainly has.
The wisdom is this: A leader who lacks this type of family relationship with those who he is to lead, is almost always going to find his leadership diminished and sometimes greatly because this lack of relationship subtly hinders him from being with one with those he leads. He is different. For some reason that is emphasized in people’s minds and the relationship with him is disturbed. That is not good for a nation.
You know from your own experiences in your life, that when two people from two different families, both who are divorced, both having their own set of children, and they come together and marry and it is like lighting a tinder box. In many cases the relationships never quite make it. It is that kind of a thing that He is talking about, only in this case it involves the entire nation. The leader has to be of the same blood as the people that he is leading.
This is why God says in a marriage it has to be till death do we part. It is to maintain the same stream of authority within the family, and the same bloodlines are meshed.
Ezekiel 34:1-6 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves. Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
John 10:11-13 [Jesus declared] “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.”
The reason that is the first piece of counsel that God gives concerning a leader is that a person who is not the real leader does not tend to develop the leadership qualities of relationship with the people that he is leading. So, the responsibility of a shepherd is the leadership’s responsibility, and a leader is far more likely to develop this foundational quality, the fewer differences that exists between them and those he leads. The closer the blood relationship the more likely that special bond will exist between him and those he leads.
So, Jesus called Himself the good shepherd. Understand, who is He leading? His own brothers and sisters. In the picture that God is drawing, He is of the same family line as they are. The good shepherd is one who loves those he cares for. The shepherd is responsible for allowing this sort of relationship to develop between himself and those he cares for, and it is more likely to develop if God’s command is followed, if they are of the same kind. The leader who is in reality just a hired hand, does not feel that emotional bond with those he leads, and will not be looking out for their best interests, and will not lay down his life for them either emotionally or literally.
That should make it understandable to us, as to why the first thing He lays down is that the leader must be of the same family line as those he is leading.
The remainder of God’s counsel here has mostly to do with the king’s personal interest and characteristics, but they bear heavily upon how he reacts in his responsibility as leader. Now the King’s self interest, can pervert those under him and do so quite easily, because people tend to follow their leader. If they are of good character that is good. This is why God always traces the way a nation behaves by evaluating the leader. That king was good in His eyes, that king was not good in His eyes. That also sends a signal that because people tend to copy their leader, the people were just like the king.
First principle: The leader must be of the same kind as those he is going to lead. Same family, same bloodline, same characteristics. The fewer differences between the leader and those he is leading, the better the governance is going be.
This next section of these laws forbids the king from acquiring three categories of things: horses, wives, and wealth. There are practical reasons for each and every one of these. This does not mean that the leader cannot have these things in lawful and ample amounts. One wife to a person is what is lawful. We will see why He forbids having more than one wife. It is really interesting. It is not just the family, it is more than that.
He is allowed to have these things in lawful amounts, but he is not allowed to zealously labor to pile them up. If he is laboring to pile them up he is not paying attention to his major job which is to lead the people. Rather what he is doing is paying attention to his own well being—piling up money, piling up wives, piling up horses—and he has his mind on everything accept real qualities of Christian leadership.
If the man was literally the king, then one must understand, first of all, what the horse represented in that day and age. Do you know what they were? In a way they were almost like having the atom bomb. They were militarily the number one offensive weapon that any king possessed. Their primary use was for conquest in warfare. Horses had great range, and quick strike abilities. Horses were the favorite weapon of kings seeking to expand his rulership over a nation into an empire.
The law was to prevent Israel’s king from building a huge standing army. You may not realize this but Israel was not to have a standing army at all! How big is the American standing army? Millions of men and women. Israel was not to have a standing army, do you get that? Who was their defender? God! When you have a huge standing army that is a strong temptation to go to war by the king and by the people. “Oh, we can take care of that, we can overwhelm them.” So God put this law in there, and if they would obey it there would be no temptation to go to war, because they did not have an army to fight a war. The could not draw upon that.
I do not in any way, shape, or form mean to intend for you to learn that Israel did not have a well trained military force. They did. Their men were trained, they just did not have a standing army. They instead operated with what we call a militia. They only went to war, supposedly, whenever they were attacked, and then they assembled very quickly and put an army together, because they were already trained. Does that not make sense? But once you begin to see what an advantage this is, not only do they not have to worry about your king making a war with somebody else, you do not have to supply the budget in order to keep this big army fed, clothed and horsed and whatever else goes with a military weapon. There was no taxation for the army, it was taken care of out regular budgetary means.
Is that not wise? You depend upon God to protect you, you train your people so that they are able to do it, and you take care of your local business on your farm until finally somebody decides to come against you, and then you hurriedly assemble and start using that training that you already had. Imagine how much lower our taxes would be if we would just followed what God says to do. God says, “Trust Me, I will take care of you. Keep My commandments, trust Me, and when war comes up I’ll go to battle for you.”
Even after they were called to go to battle there were conditions under which Israelites were free to refuse to fight. They were good, wise reasons. If a guy was in his first year of his marriage he did not have to go to war, regardless how bad it looked, or how good of a solider he was. He was completely excused. There were other reasons as well that had to do with the land. If they just bought the land he did not have to go until the land was paid for. And on and on it goes.
That second one having to do with horses, had to do with making sure that Israel did not become a military power. Unfortunately David got caught up in something, This was so obvious that even Joab decided he did not want to have anything to do with it although he carried through with his orders.
I Chronicles 21:1-8 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and to the leaders of the people, “Go number Israel from Beersheba to Dan, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it.” And Joab answered, “May the Lord make His people a hundred times more than they are. But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why then does my lord require this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt in Israel? Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore Joab departed and went through out all Israel and came to Jerusalem. Then Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to David. All Israel had one million one hundred thousand men who drew a sword, and Judah had four hundred and seventy thousand men who drew the sword. But he did not count Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. And God was displeased with this thing; therefore He struck Israel.
David got carried away. A terrible penalty was paid by the king’s subject because, David, for whatever reason he ignored this instruction in Deuteronomy 17.
Deuteronomy 17:16 “But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’”
The law regarding multiplying horses had a second part, you shall not cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for you shall not return that way again. This did not mean they could not return to visit Egypt. Jesus’ family fled there for safety after He was born. In modern English, that second phrase is more clearly stated, “You shall not force them to return to Egypt.” The key to understanding this lies in the phrase, for the Lord has said to you, “You shall not return that way again.” The phrase is almost right out of the blue, as it were, because this is the first time it appears in the story of Israel’s relationship with Egypt. And that relationship was not pretty. God says, “that way again.” The word way is the key to understanding this. He is not referencing a road. In this case “way” represents a manner of life as the Christian way as it appears in Acts. What does Egypt represent? Egypt represents slavery, bondage.
Israel was forced into servitude to the state, Egypt, to Pharaoh who was considered a god to the Egyptians. A form of idolatry is being inferred from this counsel from God about the way of a king. In Exodus 20:1, this verse is the preamble to the Ten Commandments, and most especially to the first commandment. God makes it clear that His relationship to Israel, was as their God! Not Pharaoh, not the government of Egypt, God was their leader, and they were being delivered from a nation in which the human government was god.
If they disbelieved and did not apply what Deuteronomy 17:16 says, if they disobeyed and again practiced idolatry, they were promised a trip back to Egypt, but in this case no one would even buy them. It says this in Deuteronomy 28:68. No one would buy them and they would be despicable, even to the Egyptians, if they disobey what it says in Deuteronomy 17:16. We shall not return to that way of treating people.
What then is the advice that He gives in this third provision? Do not you dare practice idolatry. You shall not return to that way again. Look at the blessings and cursing and you will find they are promised a trip back to Egypt if they turn back to idolatry. The kind of idolatry that they served when they were in Egypt.
The next point on how to be a king, God says they have to read My law every day, and write it down every day in order that they obey it, so that the king is not directly responsible for returning people to the way they were before, when they were in Egypt, and they were committing idolatry as a way of life, and it resulted in their slavery.
Every one of those pieces of council that God gives in chapter 17 had to do with the nation, but also (please do not let this slip by you), it has to do with your leadership in your family. The principles that God enunciates to those people, if we do not lead in that way then we are going to lead our children into idolatry, and we will be no better off than when the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. We are supposed to spend our time, not making money, but rather leading our family.